How my feet got pampered with Rosie And The Riveters
MUSIC by Craig Silliphant
Rosie And The Riveters
Well take that, mister “I think I’m pretty clever” music writer guy. (That guy would be me, by the way.)
When I was getting ready to interview Saskatoon’s all-female four-piece Rosie And The Riveters, I suggested doing it somewhere that captures the band’s playful spirit. I thought they could take me vintage clothes shopping, to demonstrate how they choose the signature retro stage costume dresses that give them their look.
Turns out they’ve actually done that angle with some other media, but they loved the concept of having some fun — so they insisted on taking me for a pedicure. Hmm.
I’m sure pedicures are lovely for people who like that kind of thing but I’d never had one before and having someone mess with my feet while I try to conduct business is a bit outside of my comfort zone. But so be it, I thought: this is for journalism! This is for music! I’ll make the sacrifice.
The next thing I know, I’m sitting with my feet in a warm bath (with jets!) and a chair massaging my back.
Dear gawd, do I need to start doing all my interviews this way.
All four Riveters trickle into the downtown nail shop where we decided to meet: Farideh Olsen, Melissa Nygren, Allyson Reigh and Alexis Normand. They seem amused seeing me so out of my element, but that could just be my crippling paranoia. Wait, no. No it’s not.
Farideh Olsen sits to my right, feet in the soaker, with her new baby Paulina (the fifth Riveter?), and I ask her, “What’s changed musically for the band on your new album, Good Clean Fun?”
“We are all singer/songwriters,” she says, “so we decided to write together. We’d never written together.”
The Riveters started out a few years back as what I’d call a secular gospel a capella group, mostly singing standards and classic songs in the vein of The Andrews Sisters. But on this new record they’ve branched out, both by hiring a full band and exploring other areas of songwriting.
“Yeah, it’s a little wider-range,” says Olsen. “We went from the gospel to something that’s a little more us. And we didn’t want to write an album full of love songs. How would we talk about the values that are important to us? None of us really come from a gospel background, so we started exploring positivity or our love of thrift shopping or… our bee sanctuaries. Well, there’s only one bee sanctuary and it’s Melissa’s. The rest of us are terrified of bees.”
“I just started raising bees this year,” says Melissa Nygren. “I have two hives. Just getting started and there’s a lot to learn… So there’s a song on the record called ‘Honey Bee’. It’s sort of a day in the life of a bee. The feeling of a paradise where a bee can live happily. Maybe some environmental message.”
“A friendly protest song?” I ask.
“She’ll ‘bee’ the change she wants to see,” quips Olsen.
Speaking of change: though their process is new, their master plan isn’t. The name of the group comes from the famous wartime, now-feminist, icon, and these four women embody that spirit in the most constructive and upbeat ways. In fact, a portion of their earnings go to Kiva.org, an organization that gives microloans to women all over the world, helping them create their own businesses. Through this initiative, the band has supported about 90 women.
“Rosie the Riveter symbolizes women coming together to do something in the community,” says Olsen. “So that’s always been our motto or main goal. We’ve really stuck with that. Not only singing about positive, uplifting messages, but just… the whole feeling of our band is very positive and supportive.”
“It is us trying to create opportunities for women to do something positive,” says Normand.
Rosie And The Riveters has a tour coming up to support the record, with a hometown gig at The Broadway Theatre — a great venue to see an act like this. In Regina, they’re playing the Artesian, a renovated, re-purposed church. They know how to pick their spots.
The Riveters have been working hard on their set, but they’ve also added new dance moves to make the show (even) more dynamic.
“Everybody but me seems to have a little bit of a background in [dance],” says Olsen. “Once we spent a lot of time getting the songs down we thought, ‘Hey, why don’t we do some more work? Make it twice as hard.’ [The choreography] is a collaboration, just like our harmonies and our songs.”
Though I ended up with baby-soft feet instead of a window into their shopping process, the ladies tell me that the costume aspect of the show has also been ramped up — though they’re a bit mysterious about just what that means.
“People are going to have to see it when they come to the concert,” says Olsen.
“It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before,” chimes in Allyson Reigh.
“It’s going to be a good show,” says Nygren. “That’s for sure.”
You don’t have to be a clever music guy to figure that out.